ARMONK, N.Y. The 76th Masters Tournament got underway at the famed Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia Thursday but not without the ongoing controversy about female membership in the all-male club. The controversy hits close to home in Westchester as the corporate and golf worlds await whether new IBM CEO Virginia Ginni Rometty will be offered a club membership. Augusta National Golf Club has never had a female member but IBM CEOs have been offered memberships in the past. Women can play as guests, but it remains an all-boys club. IBM is a long-time sponsor of the Masters Golf Tournament. Rometty, who took over at IBM last fall, does play golf, but club officials haven't said what they'll do in regards to membership for Rometty.
Several calls to Rometty's spokesperson were not returned Thursday. The club's current president, Billy Pane, would not offer any information on membership at Wednesdays pre-tournament press conference. Augusta does not reveal the names of any of its members or even the number of members, which is said to be approximately 300. "All issues of membership remain the private deliberations of the membership. That statement remains accurate," Payne said, according to ESPN. "We don't talk about our private deliberations. We especially don't talk about them when a named candidate is part of the question." The womens membership dilemma peaked 10 years ago when Martha Burk, then the chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, confronted then club President William "Hootie" Johnson in a failed attempt to get the club to admit female members. Burk and others protested outside the gates of Augusta and attempted to get sponsors to drop their support of the tournament, prompting Johnson to respond that Augusta's policies would not be forced to change "at the point of a bayonet." The club broadcast the Master's Tournament for several years without commercials to avoid any pressure from sponsors.
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